The Holy Compulsion of Jesus

“Jesus left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” John 4:3-10,13-15

Samaritans were religious half-breeds, from earlier times those who mixed the worship of true God with that of other gods, and to the Jews, they were unclean–they would walk around Samaria to avoid contact with them to reach a destination. But Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” His agenda was so different from those around Him that it did not submit to their norms or prejudices. His holy compulsion was to do His Father’s will; He had come to seek and to save the lost, to call sinners to Himself, and He had a divine appointment with the woman at the well. Through loving, gracious conversation that revealed Jesus’s omniscience and awakened her spiritual thirst and faith, the outcast woman came to believe He was the Christ. (John 4:25-26,28-29,39-42; 6:38; Luke 19:10; Matthew 9:13)

DSC_0501

Do I begin my days with holy compulsion? What are the motivations that drive my agenda? Who writes the items on my to-do list, who names those I am to love and serve? Where am I avoiding the uncomfortable when it might be exactly where God is calling me? Do I fear exposure or contamination or criticism or even fatigue more than I fear disobeying the One Who sends me? His pathway may be uncomfortable, risky, frightening; He may not reveal the whole process or the end of the story, but He Who assigns me tasks is He Who is good in His plans and Who enables me to obey in His strength; He Who begins a work is He Who finishes it. His ends are redemptive and altogether holy–why would I not heed His voice? (Philippians 1:6; 4:13)

Lord, teach me Your ways, lead me on Your paths. May I hasten and not delay to go where You call, even if it means laying aside my own preferences and preconceptions. May Your holy compulsion lead me every step of every day. (Psalm 25:4; 119:60,66)

Stir, Spirit!

“Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?  Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.  And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.’ Then Zerubbabel and Joshua, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the LORD‘s message, ‘I am with you, declares the LORD.’ And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.” Haggai 1:4-14

God’s word and His presence do powerful things in us. The first wave of exiles had returned from Babylon to Israel, but settled into their own narrow lives, running after wealth and comfort. When Haggai exposes their selfish drive, that they were spending their energy and wealth on building for themselves and neglecting the higher pursuit of rebuilding the LORD’s temple, which would represent His restored presence among them, their hearts were moved. As they listened and considered their ways, the Spirit stirred, and transformed their thinking, their affections, their motivation and direction. Once they set themselves to work and build for their God rather than themselves, He promised, “From this day on I will bless you.” He can do the same for us! (Haggai 2:19)

River, Blue Pools, Mt Aspiring Natl Park, NZ

Truth affects us–at least it should. When I take time to consider my ways–the way of my heart toward what is temporal or eternal, the way I am drawn to superficial, self-absorbed pursuits or tackling my own agenda, the ways I choose to live either for personal validation or God’s glory– what has God’s word exposed? What difference has considering my ways against His truth made on my choices and priorities, on how I spend my time and resources? Am I seeking His Spirit’s leading, and awaiting His stir, before beginning an endeavor?

Oh LORD, compel me to stop my busy pursuits and consider my ways, to think through my intentions and align them with Yours. Reveal and convict of any self-serving endeavors. Move my spirit to adore You first and love You best, and to build only what will last and bring You glory.

Water Become Wine

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.  And he said to them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.’ So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom  and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee.” John 2:1-11

On the surface, we are drawn into the festive atmosphere of the wedding feast, family and friends gathered for an extended celebration of a couple betrothed over a year or so and now holding a ceremony and party. There is something beautifully mysterious about Mary’s informing her son, whose public ministry had not yet begun, that the wine had run out, as though she knew what He could do. And do it He does. In a word, in an invisible act, He turns 150 gallons of water into premium wine for the guests.

DSC_0089_2

On a deeper level, what does this say He can do for us? If I am a jar of clay, and He my Living Water, then as I am filled with Him, He becomes delicious wine for me to pour out to others. My responsibility is to be filled to capacity– to seek Him, to surrender self and ask to be filled with His Spirit, to decrease so He can increase in me. Once filled, He Who is generous and alive will spill over in my life, spreading abroad His light, love, compassion, grace as I allow Him to flow through me. (Isaiah 64:8; John 3:30;7:37-38; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7; Ephesians 5:18)

Lord, fill me with Your living water, and make it delicious wine for me to give to others. You are the Source and Fount of all blessing.

In the Morning, In Our Midst

The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame. ‘Fear not; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.'” “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Zephaniah 3:5,16-17; Lamentations 3:22-23

Every morning, we awaken and find the earth still spins, the sun rises again…and if we think about it, we realize God’s faithfulness is sustaining our world and He is upholding all by His power. A rush into the day precludes our acknowledging His powerful backdrop to our lives; taking time to commune with our First Love and source of our very life bring vital energy, hope, purpose, and comfort. (Genesis 8:22; Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 2:4; Acts 17:28)

IMG_9163

Just what does He promise for every day? His word promises righteousness, justice, His unfailing presence. He watches us, rejoices over us, and showers His new, fresh mercies down into every crevice of our days. He is mighty, He is loving, He is faithful. How does that affect our morning outlook?  We may awaken to a full to-do list, or a dreaded doctor appointment, or a meeting with someone that we anticipate will be uncomfortable; we may simply face an open schedule where hours will fill up with what is now unknown– demands on our time and talents. But we can count on God to remain true to His character and to His ongoing work on our behalf and to fulfill His eternal intentions. Our response can be to trust, to take courage, to go forth in peace, without fear, and with confidence in His love and goodness and steadfast presence.

“Awake, my soul, and with the sun my daily stage of duty run; Shake off dull sloth and joyful rise to pay thy morning sacrifice.”  ~Thomas Ken (1695)

Lord, when I rise, let me look on You Who are already risen and reign. Cause me to take rest because You are in my midst, take focus to praise You for You, and take up Your mantle for my day. You Who bring each morning to bear bring each part of the day that dawns, and You bear me up as my trustworthy and constant Companion. This is the day You have made; may I ever rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

Dolphin-Chasing

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”  “But as for you, O man of God, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Psalm 119:10; Isaiah 55:6; 1 Timothy 6:11

There are storm-chasers, and ambulance-chasers, and on elementary school playgrounds,  girl-chasers; I am a dolphin-chaser. Atop a paddle board, where early sun strews twinkly jewels like stars across the grey green water, there are few things more thrilling than spotting the graceful finned back of a dolphin (or more), arcing above the surface, and I want to be there. I fix my eyes on where it was— now is again– watching for the telltale sign of its smooth circle exhale-bubble, digging in one stroke after another, keen-eyed for the next sighting to make sure I stay on course. There it is again, sometimes twisty and playful, sometimes flipping and feeding with family, sometimes just gracefully ambling on in its rainbow slices along the shore. My heart speeds up at the thought of being closer, seeing more, hearing it breathe, knowing this mysterious creature better, and I pursue…

Dolphin 2Dolphins 1

Do I so eagerly chase my Lord? I heard someone say recently, “We need to make ourselves available, and God always shows up.” Yes, and to take that another step, He is already there, and is the One Who entices us by His Spirit to hungrily seek Him and then follow in wonder, to get acquainted with Him and join in what He is doing. Sometimes it is jumpy and uneven and unexpected, other times it is clear and smooth-sailing. I know as I move along the salty surface that teeming life hides underneath, that there is more than meets my eye, and so I know God is always at work even when I cannot see. But at each glimpse, when He shows those glorious hints of His appearing, His redeeming, His stirring, His inspiration, His specific answered prayer, when He places opportunities out beyond my easy reach, does my heart jump to be a part, to get in His flow?

Oh God, keep me steadfastly pursuing You and Your life for me. May I run after Your knowledge, countenance, and character; may I delight to be near You at all times and to move in Your ways.

 

The Gift of Wisdom

In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’ And Solomon said to God, ‘Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?’” “Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions… And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions. There was nothing hidden from Solomon that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon,…there was no more breath in her. And she said to the king, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard... Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!'” 2 Chronicles 1:7,10; 9:1-7

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

Reading of the Queen of Sheba’s visit, I am always struck by her breathlessness at Solomon’s wisdom, and on the surface, it can seem he is merely a smart, wealthy monarch with a grand set-up. But looking to the start of his reign, as he stepped into the royal shoes of his great father David, we know God came to him and asked what He could give him, and Solomon asked for God’s wisdom. He knew that in order to rule rightly and well, in order to lead others and strategize for his domain and prioritize his time and build fruitful relationships, wisdom was the most needed resource. God gave it, generously. All wisdom is His good and perfect gift, and it is to be applied and shared with others in a way that brings honor to Him alone.

CO above the clouds

Where is it I need particular wisdom today? Are there immediate rocky situations that confuse, decisions that loom, plans that need to be made but are unclear? Is there a larger issue that needs divine light, a relationship that needs parameters, direction, and purpose, a life course that needs a roadmap? When I come, as the queen did, asking, open, ready, expectant, He will give!

Father, make my ears attentive and my heart inclined to understanding. You know the great and small, the near and distant areas where Your wisdom is needed, and I trust You to give it. Fill me with understanding that when others come to me seeking, I can show You and Your truth forth with radiant clarity. (Proverbs 2:2-6)

 

As Was His Custom

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And… he rose from prayer.” Luke 22:39-45

Jesus knew His life-assignment to die for the sins of the world was imminent, but knowledge did not remove dread. Facing the tormenting climax of His earthly life, He had a well-practiced habit that would supply the strength He needed to see through His daunting mission. He came out from their supper; He went to “the place” in Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, where He often gathered with His disciples; He withdrew to be alone with His Father; He knelt; He prayed, pleading that the cup of suffering might pass; He surrendered His will to God. And an angel came to minister to Him, enabling Him with resolve to leave His agony in His merciful Father’s hands.

Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

I can do the same when facing a foreboding diagnosis or encounter or future, when fear of the unknown or what might be grips me and won’t let go, when I observe a loved one on a path that seems headed in the wrong direction. Have I established the custom? I am more apt to fly to my Father and leave all with Him if this is my daily habit, my regular routine, and while it may be difficult, it is never too late to develop this practice. It requires the resolve we see in Jesus, removing self and getting away, humbling ourselves before Almighty God with unclenched hands, maybe tears, and always persistence. And we can trust He will come through with His comforting presence and strength to endure, to “rise from prayer” and face what He has before us, in His victory.

Lord, only You know all that is to come; in mercy You reveal what I need to know and when. Keep me keeping on with You, practicing the custom of constant communion and trust, that whatever comes, I can leave it with You and face it with serene and bold confidence. Your will be done, amen.

On the Watchtower

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.'” Habakkuk 2:1-3

Habakkuk, dismayed over Israel’s unfaithfulness, was even more distressed that God would use an unholy nation like Babylon to bring judgment on her. God had said, “Wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told,” and the earnest prophet was astounded, and was not believing it, so he brought his question before his holy Sovereign. Then he took his place “on the tower” to wait for God’s answer, to see with God’s eyes and understand His heart. Leaving the lowlands of human reasoning and the pull of feelings is the only way we can gain God’s perspective.

I remember about 25 years ago meeting my father in New York for the day, walking the city congested with bustle, noise, humanity, and grime, and after dinner, going up to Windows on the World to view the city at night night. From the inside quiet, gazing at the lit buildings and headlights of smoothly-moving vehicles, buffered from odors and horns and crowds, we saw the city in a whole different way, as if we’d changed our glasses. We’d ascended the ramparts and taken on a new perspective. That’s how it works when we climb upward with God to gain His view on all that concerns us here and now, all that twists our wants, diminishes the gleam of our dreams, hurts us from the inside out, distorts our plan of how things should be. He beckons us up above our complaints and circumstances to watch, to listen, to believe that He never delays but will fulfill every promise (even when, like distant separated mountains, their realization seems slow in coming), to wonder at His work because it is His. Do I resolutely take the stand?

Lord on High and in control, station me alongside you moment by moment so I can learn deeper trust, deeper astonishment at Your marvelous, oft invisible, but always good and perfect ways. Teach me patience and joy in the waiting, and always, always, greater love for You Who are working all together for good. (Romans 8:28)

Uncontainable

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. Solomon had made a bronze platform…, and he stood on it. Then he knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven, and he said, ‘O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart, who have kept with your servant David my father what you declared to him. You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day…. Will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!'” 2 Chronicles 6:12-15,18

Have you ever had too much for a container– groceries in a shopping bag, clothes in a suitcase, leftovers in a bag or jar– and tried to fit it all in anyway, only to be inefficient and frustrated? In our finite minds, we can imagine many ‘uncontainables,’ but kneeling before heaven and contemplating Almighty God brings a deeper and wider grasp of what His measureless infinity means.

At the completion of God’s temple, Solomon is obsessed not with its intricate beauties and grandeur, but with the magnificence of the God Who called him to reign and to build it, the God Who was to dwell there. Humbling himself on a platform above all the people, he is overwhelmed by God’s uniqueness, sufficiency, covenant-keeping integrity, and steadfast love. How could this great God be contained in a temple if even the highest heavens were too limited to hold Him?

IMG_8458

What is my measure for God? Do I, even subconsciously, fit Him neatly into my box of expectations, trim Him to conform to my desires and adjust Him for my agenda? If so, my focus is on the ‘me’ and ‘my,’ not the ‘Him.’ Do I stand before God and expect Him to tag along and bless, while bowing to lesser gods who demand my attention, energy, time, resources? In what plans and activities do I need a higher view of God today? When and where will I take time to kneel before His uncontainable love and holy greatness?

“Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” ~ Frederick M. Lehman (1917)

Lord, it is a mystery that You Who cannot be contained could fill your people, but I believe since You are limitless and all-sufficient, it is possible. So I ask this day for you to fill every part of me to overflow, that I go about in Your power and love and wisdom and others see only You. (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 1:9)

For This Very Reason

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8

We have been granted all things!! All things that pertain to life and godliness! We have been given knowledge of Jesus (Amen!), Who has called us to His glory and excellence (and His call is powerful and effective!), and has granted us very great and precious promises (Amen!) so we can partake of the divine nature (Amazing!)! We have been given escape from corruption, and destruction… is this not enough to make us shout in exclamation-marked-praise?!? And because of all this, because we have been granted, by God’s divine power and love and generosity and numberless mercies, all things to live for Him, we can, and should! It is for this very reason, because of what He supplies, that we are to add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and on and on, increasingly, building the blocks of a fruitful life that makes a difference here on earth.

IMG_9169

In a very simplistic way, I think of a LEGO set our grandson is thrilled to receive, a sealed box filled with directions and every piece and sticker needed to complete a vehicle. He, in this one container, has received all things needed to build a clever moving machine that will fulfill its intended purpose when complete; and so he opens it and builds, connecting each piece in order, adding ‘quality upon quality’ to complete the object, to make it useful. Why do not we utilize all God has given us, build on every quality He imparts, claim each very great promise, and continually increase in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, brotherly affection, and love? We can, by practice and perseverance–God has said so. Let’s get on with it!

Oh Lord, I am overwhelmed at all You have granted, and thank You for Your bounty to me. Thank You also for Your call to godliness and a life bound up with Yours. Pull me ever closer to You, and push me to add and build and bear glorious fruit for Thee. (Ephesians 1:3-4;2:10; Acts 17:28; John 15:16)